A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

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Part II, Chapters XVIII – XXI: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
A young mother: blonde Englishwoman, symbolizes British womanhood

A subaltern: British army officer of lower rank, supports Major Callendar

Mr. Amritrao: an Oxford educated, Hindu Calcutta barrister, notoriously anti-British

Summary
Mr. McBryde detains Aziz, explaining that he may be released on bail. When Fielding arrives, McBryde explains the charge to him. Fielding asks to see Miss Quested, but his request is denied. He declares that he believes Aziz is innocent. His request to see Aziz is also denied. The contents of Aziz’s table-drawer are brought in; Mr. McBryde says triumphantly, “Photographs of women.” Fielding explains that the photograph is of Aziz’s wife.

Hamidullah is waiting outside the superintendent’s office. He prattles to Fielding about policy and evidence. Concentrating wholly on Aziz’s innocence, he is aware of how his reactions differ from those of the Indians with whom he has decided to side. Hamidullah wants to hire Amritrao, a noted Calcutta barrister, to defend Aziz. He believes having a Hindu in charge of the defense will widen its appeal.

Fielding next has a vague talk with Godbole. The professor talks of other matters and seems unconcerned about Aziz. He says he is to start a high school in Central India, in the state of Mau.
Fielding begs him for a personal opinion on Aziz’s innocence or guilt. Godbole dissolves the question into an abstract discussion of good and evil.

Fielding obtains a permit to see Aziz, who is miserable and unapproachable, charging the Englishman with having deserted him. Without much hope, Fielding writes a letter to Miss Quested.

Suddenly feeling that Miss Quested is one of them, the Anglo-Indian women discover a new affection for her. At the Club, a beautiful, young mother is transformed into a symbol of “everything worth fighting and dying for.” The collector takes charge, giving instructions and telling the women that Aziz has been refused bail. Mr. Turton concludes by appealing to the Anglo-Indians not to suspect all Indians just because one has been charged with a crime.

Major Callendar enters; he feels responsible for having given Aziz leave. He uses the subaltern to bait Fielding. Then the Major, who is quite drunk, repeats a series of wild rumors about the way in which Aziz plotted the crime.

Ronny Heaslop enters. Fielding refuses to rise to his feet with the rest. The collector asks why he has refused to stand up. Taking this as the attack that it is, Fielding rises and announces that he believes Aziz is innocent. He resigns from the Club. Mr. Turton, enraged, begins insulting him. His way out is blocked by the subaltern, but Heaslop appeals to him to allow Fielding to go. On the upper verandah, Fielding is invaded by self-doubt and self-questioning.

Mohurram is in the air; drums are beating. The campaign to save Aziz is also heating up. Fielding spends the rest of the evening with Aziz’s friends and defenders. They have received word that Amritrao has agreed to conduct the defense. Now that Miss Quested has been pronounced out of danger, they decide to renew application for bail. Later, Fielding would like to speak to Godbole about his mistake in being rude to Heaslop at the Club, but the professor has slipped away.

Analysis
The breakdown into herd behavior is almost the opposite of the breakdown that Mrs. Moore suffers in the caves. She is overcome by a sense of the meaningless of all values. The Anglo-Indians are swept away by emotions that assert the absolute primacy of certain collective values. Raw passions that are usually held in control by civilization are reasserting themselves. Fielding continues to be an observer, although he is aware of the danger of becoming caught up in the herd instinct and acts to avoid this.

A musical background is provided by the sound of the drums of Mohurram, which function as a reminder of impending trouble. Mohurram is a festival in which individuality is swallowed up within collective lamentation....

(The entire section is 1,072 words.)